Second thoughts on murder ruling
Dee J. Hall Wisconsin State Journal
medical examiner in the 1998 murder and arson case against former Green
Bay police officer John Maloney said Sunday he no longer has confidence
in his ruling that Maloney's estranged wife was murdered.
Gregory Schmunk told the Wisconsin State Journal that key evidence was
withheld from him that could have affected his ruling that Madison
native Sandy Maloney's death was a homicide. On Sunday, he called for a
re-opening of the investigation into the Feb. 10, 1998, death, which he
ruled was caused by "strangulation/suffocation at the hands of
it needs to be re-evaluated," said Schmunk, now chief forensic
pathologist for the Stanislaus County (Calif.) Coroner's Office. "I
think the Brown County medical examiner needs to re-open the
County's acting chief medical examiner, Al Klimek, said he's willing to
take a second look at the case if asked by Brown County District
Attorney John Zakowski. Zakowski couldn't be reached Sunday.
want to get it right," Klimek said. "If it (a re-evaluation) needs to
be done, it needs to be done."
Schmunk said important evidence was withheld from him, including initial reports from the Green Bay Fire Department and the Brown County Arson Task Force that labeled the fire at Sandy Maloney's home an accident. Schmunk also said he was unaware of the victim's history of careless smoking and suicide notes written by the 40-year-old mother of three.
who left Green Bay after the verdict to take a job in California, said
he relied on the finding by the state Division of Criminal
Investigation that the fire was an arson as a key factor in making his
Maloney's family believes Sandy Maloney may have died when she
accidentally set her couch on fire after a night of heavy drinking,
possibly after unsuccessfully trying to hang herself.
Lola Cator of Madison, continues to believe her former son-in-law is
way was it accidental," Cator said Sunday. "I knew the minute I went in
that house. The fire and who killed her - I knew it was John."
prosecution was handled by Joseph Paulus, the former Winnebago County
district attorney now facing investigations into whether he committed
misconduct during his 14 years in office. Zakowski appointed Paulus as
special prosecutor in the case to avoid the appearance of conflict of
interest, since his office works closely with the Green Bay Police
said it was Paulus' job to ensure he had all the relevant information,
and he is "distressed" to know key information was kept from him.
always felt that it was definitely a departure from the norm that I was
kept at arm's length in this (Maloney) investigation," Schmunk said.
Schmunk said he "gave them the benefit of the doubt" by assuming that
Paulus wanted him to reach an independent decision.
examiners have to trust the law enforcement officers implicitly in
things like this," Schmunk said. "If that situation breaks down, you
could get some very improper conclusions about the case."
Schmunk: "If Mr. Paulus was withholding information willingly from me,
that calls into question not only the ruling from the medical examiner
perspective, but also his investigation."
attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, last week attributed the growing questions
about Paulus' performance as a prosecutor to a "feeding frenzy,"
calling them "a load of crap, as far as I know."
attorney, Lew Wasserman, said if Schmunk reverses his ruling, he will
file a motion in Brown County Circuit Court to vacate Maloney's guilty
to turn over information to the medical examiners in this case so they
reached one conclusion, and one conclusion only, is clearly
prosecutorial misconduct," Wasserman said.
case currently is on appeal at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Wasserman's motion challenges the legality of a surreptitiously taken
videotape the prosecution portrayed as a confession by Maloney. Maloney
and his supporters say his statements in the tape are taken out of
context to make them appear to be a confession.
week, Madison attorney Stephen Meyer said he's been hired by the state
attorney general's office to conduct an independent examination into
how the Maloney case was handled. DCI, the investigative arm of the
attorney general's office, handled most of the investigation into Sandy
Maloney's death. Meyer said the attorney general's office felt an
independent review of the case was needed.
FBI has been investigating Paulus for nearly two years since
allegations surfaced that he went easy on defendants who paid cash to
at least one local attorney. Paulus' successor, Winnebago County
District Attorney Bill Lennon, also said last week that he might seek
an investigation into "dozens and dozens" of complaints about
prosecutorial misconduct lodged against Paulus since Lennon took office
sister, Gin Maloney, said she told her brother of the independent
investigation late last week. She said he didn't say much, but he was
"pretty emotional." Maloney, 47, is serving a life sentence at Dodge
Correctional Institution in Waupun.
One of his
three sons, Matt, 19, said Sunday that he's relieved someone is finally
taking a hard look at his father's case.
the feeling in the bottom of my stomach that I shouldn't get too
excited," Matt Maloney said. "(But) I think something good is going to
think when somebody looks at everything they would reach the same
conclusion - that the fire and the death was accidental, and that my
dad should not be in prison for a crime that never happened."
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